Amazon has big plans for India. We now have Amazon Prime, Amazon Prime Video and the latest Fire TV Stick. Make note, India is the fifth country in the world where Amazon has launched this device, which shows just how much we matter as a market to Jeff Bezos.
For viewers in India, the mode of viewing television has changed drastically. Your dumb TV set doesn’t have to remain dumb anymore. There are quite a few streaming devices available to help you play the content you might normally consume on smartphones on the big display.
There’s the slightly expensive Apple TV, Amkette has its Evo TV series, and yes, the Google Chromecast. The Amazon Fire TV Stick will compete directly against the Google Chromecast, even though fundamentally there’s a big difference between how these two devices work.
So what does the Amazon Fire TV Stick do? Is it worth getting your hands on this, over the Google Chromecast? Read our review.
Specifications: MediaTek Quad-Core ARM 1.3 GHz | Mali450 MP4 |1 GB + 8 GB internal includes Free cloud storage for all Amazon content | Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi 2×2 MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac | Bluetooth 4.1 | Dimensions 85.9 mm x 30.0 mm x 12.6 mm and weight 32g | Voice Remote (included)
Box includes: Amazon Fire TV Stick, Voice Remote, 2AAA batteries for remote, Power Adaptor, USB Cable, HDMI extender cable
Price: Rs 3,999
Amazon Fire TV Stick
As the name suggests, the Fire TV Stick is a stick, no bigger than a USB which you can just plug into your television slot. Yes, you will need a television which has an HDMI slot for this, and make sure you have another free power slot close by. This is because the Amazon Fire TV Stick needs to be plugged into one in order to work. There’s a micro-USB slot, which is used to charge the device.
Plugging in the Amazon Fire TV Stick is pretty simple. The device is compact and doesn’t really require a lot of space. This comes with its own remote with voice control features.
Once you have plugged in, use your television remote to go to the HDMI input page, and you’ll see the Amazon Fire TV Stick loading up. You’ll need to connect the stick to a WiFi in your house — Amazon recommends a minimum broadband speed of 4MB per second in your house for a smooth experience.
Amazon is also offering batteries for the remote with the box, which is good thinking on their part.
So what’s good?
I honestly thought setting this thing up would be a pain, given I would have to type in my Amazon account information. Typing via a TV remote has never been a good experience. However, the Amazon Fire TV Stick set-up was really smooth.
You can set a data limit on this, pick at what resolution you want to stream and put in place parental. Also if you buy this off Amazon, your information will be registered with this device, so you won’t have to type in your password when setting this up.
The focus with Amazon Fire TV Stick is apps, and if you are an Amazon Prime Video member, you’ll love this. Apps like Netflix, YouTube, HotStar, Eros Now, Gaana, Voot, Voot Kids, etc are all available on this as well, so for those who are subscribed to these services, there’s more reason to rejoice. Plus, Amazon has some launch offers with Airtel Broadband, YouBroadband, Eros Now, Gaana, services, which should keep most users happy.
But the focus is on Amazon Prime Video content, which appears on the landing top banner. You can use the remote to move down, and check out the other apps and services, but make no mistake, the Amazon Prime Video content gets star treatment out here, which is not surprising. So far I’ve downloaded Netflix and YouTube on this because these services are where I primarily consume my video content.
For those wondering if they can sign into YouTube with this, it is very simple. Like with most smart TVs with the YouTube app, once you have downloaded, go to the settings to sign in. You don’t have to enter your Gmail password out. Just enter your gmail account, and a code flashes on your screen that you then need to enter on Youtube.com/activate. It worked smoothly for me, and overall I’m glad I didn’t have to sit and type my password on another device.
Moving onto the streaming quality, I’ve faced no issues with this one. Surprisingly, Amazon Prime Video content works like a charm, in fact better than what I’ve experienced with the mobile app, where I usually do need to pause in order for the full content to buffer. YouTube and Netflix work without any hiccups either.
I started watching Mr Robot on the Fire TV Stick, and so far the streaming experience has been crisp with no problems at all. In my house, I’ve got a 50Mbps connection, so that does help.
Navigating on this Fire TV Stick is also easy, thanks to the remote. The Voice Control remote gives options to pause, play, fast forward (three separate buttons at the bottom for this), there’s a main home page button, a back button and a menu button.
There’s a separate circular navigation button, which lets you move around and explore more content. Finally, on top is the Voice button. The idea is you can say names of shows, actors, movies, and the content will appear. It works accurately with Amazon Prime Video content.
So what’s not good?
I’m not too impressed with the Voice Remote search and how it works with an app like YouTube. For instance, while it could accurately figure out the name of a particular YouTuber, the Fire TV Stick gave the message, “Didn’t find any matching results.”
This is I thought was strange. Also you can’t do much with the Voice search. You can’t really give commands like Open Netflix and expect it to work. Amazon has a version of Fire TV Stick with Alexa in the US, but guess this will take some time to come to India.
If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, it makes very little sense to get this. You can get the membership for Rs 499 for now, though later the price is expected to go up to Rs 999. So remember, you’ll need to keep paying a regular subscription fee to get the most out of this Fire TV Stick.
Amazon Fire TV Stick works like it is supposed to: streaming your digital content onto your regular old dumb TV set. In my experience with this device, which is used gloriously on weekends, it has given me no cause to complain. I also have a Google Chromecast at home, which I’ve unplugged for now.
The advantage with Amazon Fire TV Stick is that you are not dependent on your phone or tablet to cast the content onto your TV. Also most of the apps that are popular for digital content are easily available on this. It is pricier than the Chromecast though at Rs 3999 compared to the Rs 3,399 pricing of the latter. Remember both devices are still streaming at 1080p, and don’t offer 4K resolution.
Eventually, the decision boils down to how much you want to pay for streaming content on your TV. When it comes to capabilities both devices are good choices, though the Fire TV Stick will at least leave your smartphone free.